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9 August 2019

Can we get away with just using mouthwash and not dental floss?

While the vast majority of people in the UK will brush their teeth twice a day, every day; for most, that is probably the extent of their daily dental care routine. Although brushing is essential for healthy teeth, this type of cleaning alone fails to effectively remove food and bacteria in the spaces in between the teeth.

At the Confidental Clinic in Surbiton, and at most other dentists in the UK, patients will be recommended to use dental floss to achieve this. Figures currently show, however, that only around one in five patients actually do floss regularly, leading to a greater risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

When you first try to floss between your teeth, it can feel quite clumsy and difficult and this may be one of the main reasons that the first pack of floss that you use is rarely finished and ends up in the waste bin. Those that are aware that cleaning between the teeth is important may instead, turn to the ‘easy option’ of using a mouthwash. But is this OK?

The benefits of using a mouthwash

It is easy to see the appeal of using mouthwash. It is very easy to do and leaves the mouth feeling fresh and clean, but how useful is it really?

Many mouthwashes are antibacterial and in that sense, they may be useful, at least to some degree, in reducing the number of harmful bacteria in your mouth. Some mouthwashes also contain fluoride which helps to strengthen the teeth. You should always check the safety warnings on mouthwash though as many will not be suitable for younger children who can suffer from tooth damage if too much fluoride is used.

Using mouthwash may also help in preventing other mouth infections such as as sores etc by improving the general health of the oral cavity.

The negatives of using a mouthwash

The above may seem like an ‘easy sell’ when it comes to using a mouthwash. There are disadvantages though that shouldn’t be ignored. Some people may be tempted to not only replace flossing with mouthwash, but even brushing too. Although this is not widespread, those that do are almost certainly going to end up having a lot of teeth filled and probably extracted! Everyone should brush their teeth regularly – no exceptions.

The alcohol content in mouthwash may also irritate canker sores if you already have them. This could cause some discomfort and, if you have them, it is best to ask your dentist for advice on treatment.

Ironically perhaps, one of the biggest pitfalls of using a mouthwash is the very reason that many people use it for and that is to freshen up the breath and making it smell nicer. While no one wants to have ‘stinky breath’, mouthwash may only mask it and prevent, or at least delay, you seeking treatment for it. Persistent bad breath (as opposed to that caused by foods such as garlic) is a common symptom of gum disease. This is treatable but it is important that you have your teeth and gums cleaned by our Surbiton dental hygienist as soon as possible. Delay may result in problems like periodontitis which can lead to tooth loss and more extensive, long-term treatment.

What about dental floss?

Although mouthwash can be useful if used correctly, it can never replace dental floss as an effective tool to keep the mouth clean. However vigorously we swill mouthwash around our mouth before spitting, it will not remove the more persistent bacteria that is attached to our teeth and the gum line. Only dental floss can really reach into the gum pockets where bacteria and small food pieces collect and remove it.

We know that this is probably not what most patients of the Confidental Clinic want to hear. Life would be so much easier if we could just use mouthwash. The reality though is that this alone will not be effective enough for you to have a healthy mouth. In addition to this, using dental floss really isn’t as hard as you think and just requires a little practice and persistence. Once you have mastered it, you will find that it easily falls into your nighttime teeth cleaning routine.

There are plenty of videos online that show you how to floss your teeth, but these may vary in both quality and accuracy. To make sure that you are doing it right, we recommend that you ask our dental hygienist to demonstrate how it should be done.

Adding this simple step into your daily oral care routine is a great way to give your oral cavity a boost. So why not give it a try and see for yourself?

If you would like our hygienist to demonstrate how to floss your teeth correctly, you can make an appointment by calling our Surbiton dental clinic on 020 8399 1291.

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